How to identify threads if you don’t know the brand

If you’ve ever inherited a stash of cross stitch supplies you’ll know that you’re both super lucky, and super confused. You see, most people cast off those little thread top labels, meaning you no longer know if the threads you have are generic, or specialist. Being able to identify these threads, or a too-good-to-be-true online sale is important. You could compare the colors to a color chart, you could look at the quality of the thread or even the label that’s left on it, but no one has time for that. Especially as there is a 100% guaranteed way to work out what brand your thread is; the barcode.

How to tell

I’m not going to go in-depth about barcodes here, but if you’re super interested, this is how barcodes work. The important bit of information for us is the start. Specifically the first 2 to 6 numbers.

CXC embroidery floss (Source: Etsy)
CXC embroidery floss (Source: Etsy)

The first two numbers state where the brand’s headquarters are. DMC is in the US. For Anchor its France, and for CXC (and generic threads) its China. The next four numbers are the brand’s own code. Now, whilst it would be great to remember all of these numbers, it’s frankly not going to happen. Lucky for us, there aren’t that many brands, and most have different head office locations, so instead, we learn just the first 2 numbers.

DMC – 07
Anchor – 71
CXC & generic – 69

It’s that simple. If you see a barcode starting with 71, you know you have Anchor threads. So now you can go out and

But what about generic and branded Chinese threads?

OK, so this is where it get’s a little more confusing. You see, almost all the embroidery threads that come out of China come from the same factory. Specifically, brand 69-4696. So if its Chinese, we need to do a little more digging. Now, we look at the end 2 numbers. There are two numbers that really matter, 14 and 41. You see each item made by a brand has a different number for each type of product. In the brand of importance, 14 stands for the CXC threads. 41 stands for Rosace threads. Now, I know you’re going to be asking one of two questions at this point:


Is CXC the same as generic?
What are Rosace threads?

Well, the answer to those is simple. The same factory produces LOADS of different threads. Some are made well, some are made cheap. CXC is the brand’s top quality product, even though they are CONSIDERABLY cheaper than DMC or Anchor. Rosace is their low tier product line. In fact, when you purchase generic threads, they’re almost always Rosace.

And its that simple. Now go out and identify those threads!

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Carrie Hughes

    Could you give me some help. I don’t have barcodes, numbers or anything and I need to know how to find out what colours they are

    1. LordLibidan

      Wow, now that is an issue! The best you can do is get a DMC color card and compare to see if they match any.
      If they don’t match; they aren’t DMC. Repeat with Anchor, etc, etc.
      If they do match, they might be DMC. They could be a company that uses DMC colors. Try using them and see if the feel is the same as DMC.

  2. Grace

    Any tips for when you’ve inherited thread with no barcode? I’ve got boxes of threads numbered and named but just on cardboard bobbins, don’t seem to be DMC?

    1. LordLibidan

      That can be difficult! I would suggest looking on our thread conversion table and search for the numbers on the bobbins. You might be able to identify the brand that way!

  3. Teraza

    thank you for this page, its been very useful. I got a pile of -64 threads being sold as “DMC”. Hoping they are colour fast!

  4. Amber

    I purchase from different suppliers…Some have no barcode, but considerably of better finish.. Some ends with 17, 10, 64.And I do have some ending in 14 but not coded. LOL.. But I like especially the 17 and I wonder why is dmc so expensive? or archor?

    1. LordLibidan

      The price of DMC threads varies so depending on where you live they might be more, or a MASSIVE amount more. But in general, they are the leaders in embroidery thread, so they can charge more. DMC are the ones that set the colors that everyone else follows, etc.
      They make all their thread the traditional way that they’ve been making them for the last 270 years, in France, the place that really excelled in thread production a few hundred years ago. When you buy DMC you buy all of that history.
      Of course, there are faster and cheaper ways to produce threads nowadays, and those cheaper brands take advantage of that. Digging a little deeper, there may be some that aren’t 100% cotton, some use dyes that aren’t environmentally-friendly (the EU has stringent rules on dye use, but places like India and China are more relaxed), and as the ‘under-dog’ they cut their profit margins to try and take on the leader; DMC.
      As with most products, the highest price doesn’t always mean the best product…

  5. Mouselina

    My Chinese thread barcodes end with 64 though 😮

    1. LordLibidan

      There are loads of Chinese brands out there making threads, so they have loads of numbers at the end. All it means is they aren’t CXC or Rosace.
      We’re actually starting to see a lot of fakes pretending to be CXC threads at the moment, so it could be one of those too.
      Finally, it could be a different non-Chinese brand that is simply shipped from/through China. So could be anything really! 😛